The “M” Word

It has been established beyond doubt, by scientists working in gleaming laboratories, that becoming a better improviser or actor makes you a better person, and vice versa. You have to listen more, be more brave and more open, more generous and less of an arsehole. I am still learning these lessons and intend to continue to learn them for the rest of my life.

Improvisation, like any artform, ought to steer clear of explicit moralizing, but it often occurs to me that it does have moral dimension, in that every performance aims to be a demonstration of the joyful creativity that is possible when ego is set to one side, agreement is instantaneous, prejudice is abandoned and communication is free-flowing. In fact, it’s more than a simple demonstration, as ideally the audience will be brought on board as co-creators of the show. They don’t need to be shouting out suggestions throughout in order to fulfill this role. So long as the improvisers are truly in the moment, the audience will be discovering the action at the exact same instant that the people on stage do. This happens in every style of improvisation, from serious extemporised theatre to the giggliest of smutty shortform pubprov – improvisation gives its audience permission to become better human beings.


One Comment on “The “M” Word”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree, though I don’t know that art should never moralize: Tolstoy does in War and Peace, Picasso does in Guernica, Edward Bond does it all the time, and while there is a danger in the artist becoming self-righteous it needn’t always be the case. But I agree that impro is about listening rather than bludgeoning people with your own point of view all the time, and that gives it a moral dimension, it is against the competitiveness fostered by capitalist society.

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